Can it really be 11 years since we first laid eyes on Max Kellerman’s Fonzi jacket?
Indeed it has been more than a decade.
Welcome back, Friday Night fights. We unrepentant fightwatchers miss our FNF fix in the early winter, don’t we?
Yuriorkis Gamboa headlined the first show of season 11, from Buffalo Bill’s Arena in Primm, Nevada, and the Cuban junior welterweight took care of business, stopping Roger “Speedy” Gonzalez with a late-inning flurry at 2:12 of the tenth and final round. It being a Gamboa fight, there was the now requisite trip to the canvas for the Cuban; he hit the deck in the second round, off a Gonzalez right counter, but as usual, he popped up quickly and got back to the business of winning rounds with flashy combos delivered at high velocity.
Is he the best prospect in the game today? Not in our books. He’s 27, and his bad habit are deeply ingrained. But could he be a champion for a spell, yes, we think so. After all, he may hit the floor but he shakes off cobwebs right quick. There may be a full court press to get him with a Freddie Roach or Nacho Beristain, to see if they can’t tame his wild ways.
The 27-year-old Gamboa (126 pounds) entered with a 12-0 record, with 10 stops, and the 30-year-old Gonzalez (127 pounds) was 27-2, with 18 knocks. The Cuban beat a Frenchman to snag gold, at 112 pounds, in 2004. He had an itch to leave Cuba after he felt he wasn’t treated like a champ, and when training in Venezuela, he bolted. He went through Colombia, and ended up in Miami.
Gamboa was more patient than we’d seen him previously in round one. His lightning hands got going in the last 15 seconds of the round. In the second, Gonzalez caught Gamboa with a monster right, and the Cuban went down. He was up with clear eyes and strong legs. It was his fourth trip to the mat in his short pro career. In the last minute, Gamboa got cooking and had Gonzalez holding on. In round three, Gamboa’s hands were scraping the floor a couple times. Hey, he is what he is, he acts how he acts…In the fourth, he leaped in recklessly, but Gonzalez couldn’t pin the tail on the donkey. The middle rounds, it became clear that Gonzalez would likely not be able to replicate his second round stunner shot. He ate mucho leather in the seventh. He tried to close it out in the tenth, but the underdog still had enough energy to slip shots. He lost his mouthpiece, and his left eye looked to be bothering him, so the ref Robert Byrd stopped the show, with just 48 seconds remaining. Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas weren’t sure if the stop was justified; I had zero problem with it, as he was eating clean strikes.
Odlanier Solis (13-0; 6-2, 259 1/2), who won gold for Cuba in the 2004 Games, took on 26-year-old Kevin Burnett (13-2-1; 6-6, 268 pounds) in a heavyweight scrap. The 28-year-old Solis and Burnett both sent out signals that they aren’t serious about performing to their potential, with their jelly bellies. No excuse for either man, frankly. It’s one thing for a keyboard tapper, quite another for a man aspiring to climb a ladder in the fight game. Pat Burns trains Burnett, and he couldn’t get Burnett to really use his height advantage. Nor could he get him to use uppercuts to target Solis, who tends to lean forward and place his head on a platter for a smart foe. Solis tossed bombs in the eighth, and forced a stop, as ref Jay Nady stepped in to save Burnett further punishment. The end came at 2:00 of the eighth. He won the WB something Intercontasomething belt in the process.
In the season opener, Lefty Erislandy Lara, age 25, took out Rodrigo Aguiar in a junior middleweight scrap. Lara, another Cuban expat, went to 3-0 with a TKO1 off a straight left.
Bernard Hopkins joined Brian Kenny in studio. He will be a semi regular on the show, along with BJ Flores, and he told viewers that he is looking for another fight or two before he transitions to his life’s third act. He turns 44 next Thursday, he reminded us, and is looking forward to fighting someone closer to his own age, so as not to taint the crop of younger stars to be. He said he would go to Wales to take another crack at Joe Calzaghe.